The Carlson twins of Stillwater were always cute kids. No bad acne. No ugly geeky stage, although Lane remembers a period when he thought he and his brother Kyle's noses were too big.
``People sometimes said, `They're nice-looking boys,' and I'd think, `Yeah, they're all right,' '' said their mom, Judy.
But no one anticipated the day when the twins would earn up to $2,500 a day - each - to pose in front of a camera.
``It honestly came as a shock,'' Judy said. ``I'm still surprised people would pay them money to stand there in a pair of jeans.''
Or to drop their jeans, as the twins did when they first grabbed national eyeballs in the 2001 spring Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, in which the nude and semi-nude models attracted more attention than the clothes.
The twins, now 23, were students at Winona State University when the catalog hit. Now, with degrees in business administration, they're ready to capitalize on their assets full time.
The budding businessmen have formed a corporation, Double Take Inc., designed to leverage their modeling income to finance real estate investments. They bought and renovated their first house, a fixer-upper in Winona, Minn., and are renting it out, part of a five-year plan to acquire five rental properties. They have a Web site (http://www.thecarlsontwins.com) and two new posters: one arty black and white, one in color with a patriotic theme, both showcasing their famously taut torsos.
``People were selling our pictures on e-Bay,'' said Lane, the older and taller twin. ``So we decided to sell some posters ourselves.
``We think of modeling as a business. A lot of models get money and don't know what to do with it, so they spend it on clothes and cars. We set up IRAs and put money aside to spend on things that make you money.''
Home base remains Stillwater, where the twins share a basement bedroom at their parents' house when they're both in town, which isn't often. With Judy bustling nearby in the kitchen, the twins talked last week about their lives and plans.
``We have the same friends; we've always hung out together,'' said Kyle, the slightly more muscular twin. They roomed together, along with three friends, during college and, until recently, have always shared a car. But now, although they made their name posing side-by-side, they're doing more work separately, jetting between New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. ``It's more lucrative to work in different places,'' Kyle said. ``If we're together, we're competing for the same jobs.''
Just two snapshots
Those jobs weren't even on their mental radar two years ago when a scout approached Lane at a hotel and asked if he'd ever modeled. ``I didn't really like the idea,'' he recalled. ``Growing up in a construction family, I couldn't really see saying, `Dad, I'm gonna be a model.' ''
He was intrigued enough to mention that he had an identical twin, however, which further piqued the scout's interest. After talking it over, the twins decided it might be a good way to make some extra money to finish paying for college.
At first they kept their plans a secret. ``We didn't tell our parents or girlfriends,'' Lane said. They went to a Minneapolis event offering would-be models a chance to meet with agents. Lacking a portfolio, they showed up with two snapshots. ``We went to a one-hour photo and had the lady take a picture of us.''
The twins were ``overwhelmed'' when 18 agents called them back, Kyle said. ``We didn't know what to do.''
When they finally told their parents, their dad, Rick, said, ``Why keep it a secret?''
Within three months, the twins landed the A&F catalog. ``We were warned by our agent: `If you're not comfortable getting nude, don't do it,' '' Kyle said. ``It was tastefully done.''
``Not to mention that Mom would strangle you if it wasn't,'' Judy said. ``Nudity is one thing - it's beautiful - but posing for erotic pictures is pornography. . . . If I saw groping or passionate embracing, that would be over the line.'' In the Abercrombie pictures, ``they're just frolicking, like a bunch of 4-year-olds.''
``Grandma has seen the catalog,'' Kyle said. ``She just laughs.''
Modeling is a means to an end for both twins, but their ultimate goals are different. Lane is taking acting classes in hopes of landing a soap opera or other TV role and eventually working his way into films. ``I'd like to be like Vin Diesel, in an action movie,'' he said.
Kyle, while open to ``little roles'' in movies, is more interested in getting a pilot's license and taking over his father's construction company some day. ``I'd like to be my own boss - a real estate tycoon,'' he said with a grin. ``I'm a homebody. I like to be close to my family.''
How else are they different? ``I'm a little bit more on time,'' Kyle said.
In high school, Judy said, ``Kyle would be halfway down the driveway, and Lane would come running out, eating his breakfast.''
Lane doesn't dispute this. ``I'm a little more outgoing than he is,'' Lane said. ``I'm more business-oriented. I take on a lot more. I want to do everything.''
``You're late to everything,'' Kyle said.
Derek Johnson of Stillwater, a friend since junior high and one of their roommates in college, agreed that Lane is more outgoing. ``Kyle's more reserved, but he opens up once you get to know him. . . . Lane is a little more gung-ho, take-charge, a little more into this whole modeling thing. Kyle is more laid-back about it.''
Their day rate is $1,250 to $2,500, with the rate varying by client and location. Larger clients in fashion centers such as New York City tend to pay more.
The twins spent their down time this summer helping their dad at construction sites, doing chores for their mom (``I save up all kinds of evil things for them,'' Judy said), and unwinding by playing in the family horseshoe league. ``It's a good chance to bond with Grandpa,'' Lane said. Most of their relatives live nearby. (The twins have an older sister, Michelle, an older brother, Aaron, and a younger sister, Lynnaya.)
Modeling ``hasn't ballooned their heads,'' Johnson said. ``They definitely have a little more money than the rest of us, but they don't flaunt it.'' They have changed, however. ``They're getting a lot smarter, business-wise. They've matured a lot.''
Judy is happy to see them succeed, ``but it's more important to me that they be nice kids.'' Which they are, she added. ``They said, `Make a promise that if you see any change in our behavior, you'll knock us to our knees.' '' Has she had to make good on that promise? ``Not once. Some kids are just born easy.''
Easy, but not perfect. In junior high, they admit, they occasionally prepared for tests by each studying a different subject, then taking that test twice, once as themselves and once as each other. ``The kids knew; the teacher had no clue,'' Lane said.
And Kyle recalls a junior high prank involving a girl who had a crush on Lane. Kyle borrowed Lane's hat and asked her out. Later, when the flustered girl discovered Kyle's ruse, she slapped Lane. ``That was the meanest thing I've ever done,'' Kyle said.
The twins aren't gay, but a lot of their fans wish they were. ``After Abercrombie, we had a huge fan base of gay men,'' Kyle said. They're OK with that. ``We don't mind guys looking at us.'' They do, however, mind when people insist that they must be gay, despite their assertions to the contrary. (Lane is still dating the woman he met ``the first day of college;'' Kyle's girlfriend is a student at Winona State.)
``I found myself getting very irritated in the beginning,'' Lane said. ``But I know who I am.''
And they really mind when their photos appear without their permission on gay-themed Web sites. ``A lot of these photos are my head on some other guy's body,'' Kyle said. ``That really bothers me. You have to stay on top of it. Every week a new site is coming up.'' (One offending site, which posted a nude outtake from the A&F shoot, removed it last week at Kyle's request.)
One of the twins' clients, the Mall of America, targets their gay fans with full-page ads showcasing them together, often shirtless, in Lavender, a Twin Cities gay/lesbian magazine. ``That campaign has a strong following,'' said Jeff Hoke, director of marketing for the Mall of America. The ads generate a lot of positive e-mail and ``reaction from people on the street.'' The mall also uses the twins in mainstream magazines, such as People, InStyle and Wallpaper, and in local magazines such as Mpls/St. Paul and Minnesota Monthly. In June, Hoke said, the mall ran a Father's Day ad showing the twins posing with their dad.
The twins' sexual orientation is sometimes a topic in messages posted to their Web site. For now, they respond to every message - ``If someone's going to take the time to e-mail us, we owe it to them to personally write them back,'' Lane said.
Enquiring minds also want to know whether the twins shave their chests (no) and what they do to maintain those bodies (an hour of weight training three or four times a week, plus situps every night). Mostly, the twins attribute their physiques to their gene pool. ``Dad is still really built and he doesn't work out at all,'' Kyle said. ``Lucky genetics.''
Source: Star Tribune, September 22, 2002